Title: Ashenden: or, The British Agent Author: Maugham, W. Somerset [William Somerset] () Date of first publication: Buy Ashenden, or, The British Agent New Ed by William Somerset Maugham ( ISBN: ) from Amazon’s Book Store. Everyday low prices and free . Ashenden was written by Somerset Maugham and published in It was loosely based on Somerset Maugham’s experiences as an MI6 agent during World.

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You must be able to look at yourself from the outside and be at the same time spectator and actor in the pleasant comedy of life. Quite a shock to go from reading the street-level immediacy of Dashiell Hammet and James M.

Cain to sauntering through the wordy aloofness of William Somerset Maugham. Slowly, I came to really like this book. Born in in the British Embassy in Paris where his father worked and where he lived for the first ten years of his life, Maugham was 54 when this book came out.

Both his parents died when he was young and he was raised by an aloof and cruel uncle a vicar. He had, in other words, an unusually cosmopolitan upbringing and outlook for an Englishman of his time. Liza sold out and confirmed him in his vocation.

The first was performed in and in he had four plays on in the West End simultaneously. By the outbreak of the Great War Maugham had written 10 novels and ten plays and was a well-established Edwardian man of letters. He enlisted in the ambulance service. He returned to London to promote it then looked around for some way to support the war effort. There was a hiatus while Maugham went travelling in the Pacific to research his novel The Moon and Sixpencebased on the life of Paul Gauguin — the first of many journeys through the late-Imperial world of the s and s which were to become associated with Maugham and which provided a template for Graham Greene a generation later.

Two and a half months later, the Bolsheviks took control. Maugham subsequently said that if he had been able to get there six months earlier, he might have succeeded.

Quiet and observant, Maugham had a good temperament for intelligence work; he believed he had inherited from his lawyer father a gift for cool judgement and the ability to be undeceived by facile appearances. He is credited with being the most financially successful British writer of the s.

Ashenden, or The British Agent is not a novel: Some offer just fragments or insights, others a continuous story in 2 or 3 parts. The stories follow very closely his actual experiences. The fictional Ashenden is a British writer who is sent to live in Switzerland, who receives weekly orders by cloak and dagger channels, and who keeps an eye especially on Indian political activists. The final image which seems to epitomise the worldview of the book is about the ludicrousness of life, its fickleness, its absurdity.

It seems much the more mature and admirable attitude. Snobbery Coming back to read English fiction after a prolonged dose of American, the most striking thing is the drawling confidence and smug superiority of the narrator.

Ashenden has the calm confident aloofness of the English gentleman who has had it drummed into him at public school, Oxbridge and then in the professions, that an English gentleman is the most superior ssomerset in the world.

In almost every sentence this sense of superiority oozes. Just like Bond, he is a connoisseur of the high life, living in a de luxe hotel whose other guests are top diplomats, princes in exile etc, probably all spies.

When he meets his boss, R. Ashenden, of course, is effortlessly at ease. It amused Ashenden to see R. He talked a little too loud in order to show that he was at his ease and made himself somewhat unnecessarily at home. You saw in his manner the shabby and commonplace life he had led till the hazards of war raised him to a position of consequence. In jaugham phenomenal scenes with the British ambassador to Russia he easily holds his own with one of the most superior persons on the planet.

Humour As is the way majgham his class, this aloofness is combined with imperturbable good ashenedn. His ideas of playing the game are not quite the same as yours or mine. And his prose tends to be rather flat and uncolourful.


When it does make use of simile or metaphor they are generally of the most crushing obviousness. It might be, he mused, as he rode along the lake on a dappled horse with a great rump and a short neck, like one of those prancing steeds that one sees mautham the old pictures, but this horse never pranced and he needed a firm jab with the spur to break even into a small trot; it might be, he mused, that the great chiefs of the secret service in their London offices, their hands on the throttle of this great machine, led a life of full excitement; they moved their pieces here and there, they saw the pattern woven by the multitudinous threads Ashenden was lavish with his metaphorsthey made ashenddn picture out of the maughm pieces of the jigsaw puzzle; but it must be confessed that for the small fry like himself to be a member of the secret service was not as adventurous an affair as the public thought.

He is twenty years somerse than them, went to English public schools and was raised in a vanishing world of top hats and gracious living and every paragraph reminds you of the fact, in their unspooling, repetitive, easily distracted way.

Ashenden reflected that this was the mistake the amateur humourist, as opposed to the professional, so often made; when he made a joke he harped on it. The relations of the joker to his joke should be as quick and desultory as those of a bee to its flower.

He should make his joke and pass on. There is of course no harm if, like the bee approaching the flower, he buzzes a little; for it is just as well to announce to a thick-headed world that a joke is intended. Not necessarily wrong, just takes quite a long time to say something which is unexceptional, not particularly interesting.

One specific tic is his habit of inserting a subordinate clause in the middle of a sentence highlighted in italics in the examples given above and below. This, at a basic level, makes many of his sentences longer, pads the text.

It also makes them feel more digressive and chatty. Helps to creates the affable persona. Somehow it sounds like Colonel Blimp speaking, interrupting himself to take a puff of his cigar and let you into another piece of bland worldly wisdom.

She was not the type he would have expected to adopt that career, for she seemed to have no advantages that could help her, and he asked himself whether she came from a family of entertainers there are all over the world families in which for generations the members have become dancers or acrobats or comic singers or whether she had fallen into the life accidentally through some lover in the business who had for a time made her his partner.

Makes them more immediate, more impactful, easier to read. Slower and more reflective. As though for protection very much to his surprise she flung her arms round Ashenden.

This Week’s Must Read: ‘Ashenden,’ by Somerset Maugham : NPR

If Chandra came and showed his passport, and it was very likely that he was travelling with a false one, issued probably by a neutral nationhe was to someret asked to wait and Ashenden was to identify him. He had not been to Lucerne since he was a boy and but vaguely remembered a covered bridge, a great stone lion and a church in which he had sat, bored yet impressed, while they played an organ; and now wandering along a shady quay and the lake looked just as tawdry and unreal as it looked on the picture-postcards he tried not so much to find his way about a half-forgotten scene as to reform in his mind some recollection of the shy and eager lad, so impatient for life which he saw not in the present of his adolescence but only in the future of his manhood who so long ago had wandered there.

What you get in maughwm for slowing down, for making a conscious decision to forget the snappy jazziness of more modern prose, is a series of stories which, at their best, take you deep into a human personality. The stories are secondary: No one sentence stands out but, slowly, in his long-winded way, you find yourself processing the accumulating detail which is what character in a text is made of.

This self-consciousness seems ashemden be an iron rule of the genre. It had always seemed to Ashenden that R. Having twice carefully read the letter, he held the paper up asehnden the light to see the watermark he maufham no reason for doing this except that the sleuths of detective novels always did itthen struck a match and watched it burn. Gomez, the young Spaniard whom Grantley had betrayed… was a high-spirited youth, with a love of adventure, and he had undertaken his mission not for the money he earned by it, but for a passion for romance.


It amused him to outwit the clumsy German and it appealed to his sense of the absurd to play a part in a shilling shocker. The most interesting reference, though, comes much earlier, when asuenden author friend Eileen Bigland tells Ambler, as he is setting out to become a writer, to learn from Maugham.

From which of his novels, Cakes and Ale? This is nowhere near a complete bibliography. Maugham also wrote countless articles and reviews, quite a few travel books, two books of reminiscence, as well as some 25 successful stage plays and editing numerous anthologies.

This is a list of the novels, short story collections, and the five plays in the Pan Selected Plays volume. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email.

Notify me of new posts via email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Maugham Born in in maugnam British Embassy in Paris where his father worked and where ashenedn lived for the first maaugham years of his life, Maugham was 54 when this book came out. During the Great War Maugham had two spells with the intelligence services: Ashenden Ashenden, or The British Agent is not a novel: He is given an address in a run-down part of Sahenden where he is shown into a disused house and meets R.

He is despatched to Switzerland. A Domiciliary Visit 19 pages Maugam, now in Switzerland, hears the Germans are going to burgle the left luggage room at Ashejden station to seize the trunk of an Indian diplomat.

Ashenden takes the train for Geneva to Berne to tell the diploatic offier there who decides to inform the Swiss authorities. Ashenden returns by boat across the lake giving scope for nature description and his mild anxiety at being collared by Swiss police. Back at his hotel he is visited by two Swiss policeman, mautham he humorously nicknames Fasolt and Fafner after the giants in Das Rheingold.

Ashenden by W. Somerset Maugham (1928)

They have nothing to go on and leave. Ashenden remembers an encounter with a waiter working for him in Germany who revolted, wanting more money. Miss King 27 pages The same evening Ashenden dines with the other guests, a motley crew simerset upper class diplomats, princes etc. Ashenden suspects all of them of being spies. He is surprised to be invited to a game of bridge in the rooms of Baroness Higgins with Prince Ali of Egypt and his secretary and wonders if one or all of them are working for their countries, and how much they know about him.

Later the same night he is called out of bed by the dying wish of the ancient governess of the Egyptian princes, Miss King. She has had a stroke and dies in his arms.

Ashenden by W. Somerset Maugham () | Books & Boots

Ashenden speculates about what she has seen, what she knows, and whether she was trying to tell him something. They decide to go their separate ways, the Mexican to Barcelona, Ashenden back to Rome. They wait in a low dive where the Mexican is happily picking up women when Ashenden notices blood on his sleeve.

Ashendem Ashenden receives and decodes an urgent telegram from base: The Mexican has befriended, tailed and murdered a completely innocent man! A Trip to Paris 24 pages Ashenden receives a coded message telling him to go meet R. Once again he is struck by R. The Department has discovered that a somersft Spanish dancer-cum-prostitute, Giulia Lazzari, has been receiving passionate love letters from a fanatical Indian nationalist, Sometset Lal, responsible for various bombing outrages and devoted to kicking the British out of India.